• food web;
  • Weddell seal;
  • Leptonychotes weddellii;
  • mass estimation;
  • photogrammetry;


Traditional methods of acquiring mass data limit the ability to collect large samples from across populations of some pinnipeds, or to sample without great disturbance to the animals. In order to collect substantial samples of mass data from the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) population in Erebus Bay, Antarctica, we developed the equipment and methods for estimating the mass of Weddell seals using digital photographs. Resulting regression models predict the mass of adult female seals to within ±13.8% of estimated mass, and ±25.9% of estimated mass for pups. We show the protocols developed are repeatable and efficient enough to be applied to a large number of animals in a relatively short period of time and may be useful for studies of other marine mammals. We caution that prediction intervals exist around mass estimates and must be accounted for when estimates are applied to biological questions. In a limited application of the method, differences in mass transfer between experienced and inexperienced maternal females and their pups were detected when prediction error variance around mass estimates was explicitly included. Similar mass-estimation methods may therefore be useful in consideration of biological questions requiring large samples of mass previously unattainable.